Objective: The objective of the study was to examine the association in humans between maternal psychosocial stress exposure during pregnancy and measures of glucose-insulin metabolism in the adult offspring.
Study design: Healthy young adults whose mothers experienced major stressful life events during their pregnancy (n = 36, prenatal stress, PS group, mean age 25 +/- 5.14 [SD] years) and a comparison group (n = 22, CG, mean age 24 +/- 3.7 [SD] years) underwent an oral glucose tolerance test.
Results: Glucose levels were not significantly different across the groups; however, prenatally stressed subjects showed significantly elevated 2-hour insulin (P = .01) and C-peptide levels (P = .03). These differences were independent of other major risk factors for insulin resistance, including birth phenotype (birthweight, length of gestation), a family history of diabetes, gestational diabetes, body mass index, proinflammatory state, and smoking.
Conclusion: Higher insulin responses reflect relative insulin resistance in these prenatally stressed young adults. This study is the first to provide evidence for a link in humans between prenatal psychosocial stress exposure and alterations in glucose-insulin metabolic function.